Document Type

Theses, Ph.D

Rights

This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Disciplines

1.3 PHYSICAL SCIENCES, Climatic research

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) to the Dublin Institute of Technology, May, 2011.

Abstract

Although extreme temperatures have not been identified as a major cause of mortality in Ireland, climate change calls for an evaluation of the past, present and future health risks associated with heat and heat waves. The health impacts of heat were investigated using mortality and temperature data for the period 1981-2003. Data were aggregated in urban areas (Dublin, Cork, Drogheda, Arklow, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford) and rural areas. Seven heat waves were identified between 1981 and 2003, corresponding to 254 excess deaths (197 in rural areas, and 57 in urban areas). A major episode was observed in rural areas in 1983: +115 [confidence interval CI 95% 96:137] extra deaths between the 5th and the 23rd July 1983. During summer, a 1°C increase above 15°C in the mean temperature was associated with a 1.5% [CI 95% 0.9:2.1] increase in total mortality in rural areas, and a 1.6% [0.6:2.5] increase in total mortality in urban areas. Risks were modified by the mortality observed in the preceding winter. There are indications that the heat-related risks have been decreasing between the 80s and the 90s. A better geographical resolution of the mortality data is an asset to refine this analysis and to study any relationship between a health topic and an environmental exposure. Despite limits on the data, an increase in temperature was associated with an increase in mortality during summer in Ireland, and past heat waves were associated with a small but observable excess mortality. With the perspective of climate change, and with the ageing of the population, it may be that more severe heat episodes results in a larger mortality burden, as was observed during the July 1983 heat wave. Steps to reduce vulnerability to heat during extreme episodes should be considered.